After chaotic meeting, is EA Drainage doing away with Drainage Director position?

District 9 Councilman Dal Waguespack

In eight months we’ve gotten nowhere!-EA Drainage Chairman Chase Melancon

On October 18, 2021 East Ascension Consolidated Gravity Drainage District approved a Management Agreement whereby President Clint Cointment would retain some, at the time ill-defined, authority over the District’s yet to be hired Drainage Director.  It was the culmination of a failed power grab by six Parish Council members, sitting Ex Officio on the Drainage District, a botched coup attempt designed to oust Cointment.  Looking for a way out, unnamed members (we’re laying odds on Aaron Lawler) authored a poorly crafted agreement, unenforceable as evidenced by the abject waste of time that was Monday’s lengthy meeting.

One member, the swing vote to terminate the existing agreement whereby Cointment exercises his current authority, even mused that EA Drainage could proceed without hiring a Drainage Director.  That 6-4 vote happened on June 28…

Commission votes to strip Cointment of drainage duties, ignoring public outcry

Time flies.

“When all this happened we didn’t want engineering firms; we didn’t want to pay for them,” recalled Councilman/Commissioner Dal Waguespack who cast the emotional sixth vote to terminate the agreement between EA Drainage and Ascension Parish two weeks shy of one year ago.  “We’ve come full circle (which would bring one back to the starting point, so maybe he meant to say there’s been an “about face” or “a 180″), and that’s a good thing.”

Waguespack lauded the performance of HNTB Engineers which was tabbed as the Ascension Drainage Assistance Program Team (ADAPT), in addition to working on the parish’s first Floodplain Management Plan.  In fact, HNTB is already engaged in several of the prospective tasks that a Drainage Director might undertake.  Who’s to say since EA Drainage’s ten members cannot come to a consensus on a job description, salary, whether the Drainage Director will be an employee of the parish, a contract employee or not…or much of anything else.

“If we do go a different direction,” Waguespack went on to muse, “Clint, I think that is gonna fall on you and Ron (Savoy, DPW Director) to pick up that torch…long-term planning, drainage maintenance plans, going over the budget, long-term goals.”

He was reading from a list of potential Drainage Director duties.  Waguespack could have saved everybody the trouble with a different vote on June 28.  He broke it, he bought it.

Going nowhere, it was decided to workshop the issues among the members, the Cointment administration, SSA Consultants…

“There are still some things that, I think, are maybe not as clear as they should be in the Management Agreement,” asserted SSA’s Dr. Christel Slaughter.

“Or maybe they are clear,”  Dr. Slaughter was covering all the bases, “and we just need to understand that; because the better the candidate, the more interested they are in (knowing the answers to)… am I going to supervise people; how many; who am I reporting to; who hires me; who fires me; am I a contract employee even though I’m reporting to the parish president?”

What about how much the Drainage Director salary will be?

President Cointment was adamant that the Management Agreement’s salary range is too high, likely to sow dissension in the ranks of Ascension’s “superstar” employees currently toiling away.  Pursuant to the agreement, the Drainage Director is a “new position with a salary pay range of $135,000 to $210,000 per year” which Cointment wants to cap at $150,000.

The counterpoint to his argument was made, at length, by the prime architect of this fiasco; Aaron Lawler who was at his rambling, bloviating best (or worst) on Monday.  Whatever Cointment wanted, just assume the opposite from Lawler who was all over the map on Monday.

“When you started this journey it seemed like you wanted someone who was gonna look across all elements of drainage,” Dr. Slaughter, as lost as everyone else, tried to pluck some order out of the chaos by way of reminiscence.  “And be someone who could come to the drainage board; budgets and oversight and coordination and monitoring and that sort of thing.  You don’t have to, necessarily, direct all of those things.  They can.  They don’t have to.”

Oh, well.  She tried.

Or EA Drainage’s membership can play the string out through 2023 when four or five of them are ousted from office.  President Cointment (or his successor) and a new body can relegate this failed power grab to the trash bin of local history, pick up any useful pieces…

EAD approves Roux consulting agreement by 6-2 vote

(no, not that) and move on from this debacle.